Distrust in government was a theme that dominated discussion at a town hall meeting with Congressman Paul Tonko in the Saratoga County Town of Ballston Wednesday night.
Tonko, a Democrat of New York’s 20th District, met with constituents at the Ballston Town Hall on Wednesday. The meeting was the sixth of its kind the congressman has held in his district during the current Congressional session.
"I like the outreach. I like gathering with constituents and opening it up to every question and any question that could be imagined," said Tonko.
After brief opening remarks that touched on a range of issues including the local effects of sequestration on New York state, the Congressman opened the floor to questions. During the discussion, public distrust in the federal government took center stage.
Terry Hurlburt, a resident of Schenectady, criticized the federal government over Egypt, a sentiment echoed throughout the evening. He also was one of a handful of attendees to criticize the lack of transparency in government and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Hurlburt said that he appreciated the Congressman making himself available, but was also frustrated with partisan gridlock in Washington.
"I think that the Congressman is trying his best, but I don't think Congress and himself are working hard enough to get the right deals for the American people," said Hurlburt. "We need more dialogue and we need more compromise."
Tonko also heard several comments on the revelation of widespread domestic surveillance by the National Security Administration. Andrew Short is a resident of Duanesburg.
"The big thing is the NSA spy program," said Short. "We should know as American people what's going on."
Attendees also commented about the need for increased communication between federal agencies, the need for more federal action to control the inflating cost of higher education and student loan debt, inflation of currency, and the national debt.
Patti Southworth, an Independent who is serving her sixth year as Ballston Town Supervisor, said that she’s noticed more public distrust in government in recent years.
"I often feel that way, I feel like every move I make to try to open up government more and hand out more information gets met with opposition. So I think why people from the people feel that distrust," said Southworth. "I think that they have to realize that not everyone in government behaves in that manner."
Andrew Short said that this was the first time he’s met with his Congressman. While he came with many criticisms, Short did mention that he was glad to have his voice heard.
"I think a lot of people think they're powerless but they need to have their voices heard, they need to stand up," said Short.
After the meeting, Congressman Tonko said that he hopes his town hall meetings will create a more open relationship between representative and constituent.
"I think the way that you prove your drive to get Congress to function is to come out to gatherings like this and show people what you're about and open up to the discussion and the dialogue and I think it is the beginning of developing trust," said Tonko.